Sunday, June 07, 2009

Baltimore - Charm City?

Hi Darlings:

They are worlds in contrast with similarities only historically defined by negative realities of crime, drugs and poverty except the magical wand of gentrification seems to not have provided the present prosperity and economic growth to Baltimore that we enjoy in the District. For many Washingtonians, Baltimore City is defined by television shows like the Wire which portray a city without the charm of a small town but rather one surviving on the charms of street hustlers and drug dealers. Although I have never watched the Wire, reading and noting the truth in the plot line was enough for me to create a self-imposed boundary of visiting only the Inner Harbor and no where beyond whenever I decided to venture northward to Baltimore.

This seeming snobbery was and still is a common practice for many other Washingtonians, as well. We’ve been afraid that the city, rampant with more murders and crime than our own would be too violent for us to stomach. Not wanting to get hurt by stray bullets, some or rather many of us fear for our lives, so we choose not to explore more of the city.

However, just as we grew to dislike Baltimore because of a TV show, many of us recently fell in love with the city because of the movie “He’s Not That Into You”. I can recall the jaws of six of my friends spilling forth their contents as they dropped to the floor of the movie theater upon finding out that the city featured in the movie was Baltimore. We wondered whether the “potentially” happening (onscreen) singles scene actually exists in reality. From then on, we were on a mission to find out whether or not there was some charm to the city and contemplated where we should dig to locate it.

With the specific goal of visiting Baltimore more often (It helped that I started dating someone who lived there), I can say after a few months of hanging out in the city there are many charming places to visit and explore. Areas like Patterson Park add an unexpected dimension to the city. Representative of a mid-Atlantic Central Park, this area is pristine and contains a duck pond, an unusual pagoda and endless space for city dwellers to live and play as well as hold community focused events like the recent Polish festival. There are restaurants like those in Canton’s Square with unique personalities and some with amateurish d├ęcor with old soul character, instead of a modern, contemporary, monotonic matching of Pier 1 Imports purchases. The coffee shops like Patterson Perk and High Grounds Coffee are the opposite version of big box coffee shops like Starbucks and offer used books amid locally roasted coffee. I am not sure there is another city in the Washington DC metro area with more coffee roasters. And yes, big city gals, free WIFI is provided!

The city is definitely worth visiting even if the blue lights are still present and foreboding. The reality is many neighbors don't have these lights and are worth exploring.

What are you experiences visiting Baltimore?


John said...

Balimore seems to be a theme today. Just found this with the first few pix of Lexington Market.

Redhead said...

DCBlogs just noted your post.
I love Fell's Point, which can still border on seedy. But, the quirky Hampden area is a must! Cafe Hon (in Hampden) is a little overpriced for what you get, but is a landmark. Plus, there is a shop in Hampden (forget the name) that sells shoes and chocolate. SHOES AND CHOCOLATE!

Racquel said...

Great commentary! You've motivated me to explore Baltimore. I have to admit, I am a DC snob!

Anonymous said...

I am a fomer Washingtonian now living and working in the Baltimore area. It took me a while to adjust to the culture here, but so far, so good. I will say this city does have it's quirky and sometimes strange "ways", but you get used to it. I have found people here to be more down to earth than DC, that's for sure.

Despite what is shown on "The Wire", the show is not an overall or even fair representation of the city.

Granted, Baltimore has more than it's fair share of problems, but it also has a beautiful side as well. The Mt. Vernon area definitely reminds me of Dupont Circle in DC with it's cafes, galleries, nightlife and gorgeous old homes.

Raquel, HarborEast is a relatively new and upscale area adjacent to Fells Point and there is also a new section called "Harborpoint" that is in the works. Fells is very similar to Adams Morgan/U St. in terms of nightlife. Ramshead live is our 9:30 club here. Federal Hill is also a beautiful community..lots of pubs, restaurants, cafes, etc. I think you will enjoy it. Besides, DC isn't that far away once you have had your fill of Baltimore, lol.

Definitely take a day or two during the weekend and explore. You will be pleasantly surprised.

For coffee lovers, I would also like to add "Peace and a Cup of Joe" to the coffee shop list. Definitely a nice, cozy and friendly place.

Additionally, I have met a lot of people who work in DC and have moved to Baltimore, mostly for the cheaper housing.

So there is dfefinitely a lot here if one looks.


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